Secretary of State Jon Husted has not had a good year. He’s dealt with his party's early voting policies, which are only defended by racial politics and costs, and he was sued by President Barack Obama’s campaign to restore in-person early voting for the weekend and Monday before Election Day — a lawsuit he lost. Now he’s being sued by two Democratic Montgomery County Board of Elections officials he fired.
Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie filed a lawsuit today claiming wrongful termination. The election officials claim they were wrongly fired when Husted suspended then fired the men for refusing to follow uniform in-person early voting hours he established.
In a statement, Lieberman said Husted was setting a bad example with the terminations: “We believe SOS Husted was wrong when he unjustly fired us. He violated our free speech and the free speech of other county elections board members. SOS Husted fired us and then dared other election board members to try and stand up for the voters in their community.”
The Montgomery County Democrats refused to abide by
Husted’s uniform voting hours because they did not include weekend
“Dennis and I did nothing wrong,” Ritchie said in a statement. “We knew that 11,000 Montgomery County residents voted during early weekend hours in 2008. The county has the money to pay for the extended hours. We were only trying to give people a fair chance to vote.”
However, the Montgomery County Democrats did break the rules. The whole point of uniform voting hours, which Husted established due to outcries from Democrats about county-by-county voting hour discrepancies, is uniformity. If any county gets more or less hours, the entire premise is broken.
Husted's office could not be immediately reached for comment over the lawsuit. This story will be updated if comments become available.
UPDATE (4:50 P.M.): Husted's office issued a statement in response to the lawsuit after this story was published, crediting the statement to Husted: “Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Ritchie were fired for breaking election law. They are free to say what they want, but they are not free to do what they want.”Republicans have had a difficult time defending their anti-early voting policies. Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. John Kasich and Franklin County Republican chairman, defended the policies perhaps too bluntly when he wrote in an email to The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
Republicans have also cited costs. But as Ritchie said, Montgomery County has the money to pay for more early voting. A previous analysis from CityBeat also found extending early voting hours comes at a fraction of a percent of Hamilton County’s budget.